By Christopher Cudworth
People of faith are accustomed to thinking of their God as their Rock, the solid foundation of their being.
However so much of the world exists in aggregate that to appreciate its complexity requires a bit more thought to appreciate.
Bending down to examine some concrete or asphalt along a public street, one finds our highways are not in fact solid in construction. Millions upon millions of smaller rocks are fused together to form the path on which we trod, ride, run or drive. We mash these pieces together to create a greater whole. Then we use oil and other binding material in hopes that our roads will last a long while.
But of course they deteriorate eventually. Come apart. Get potholes. Everything made by the human race seems destined to such a fate.
Yet so, it turns out, is everything made by God. The earth and all of the universe is in a constant change of decomposition, change and reformation. Even the mighty mountains and largest rocks in the world eventually turn into sand.
Some people believe that is the only direction in which change can move, toward destruction. Their worldview sees a perfect beginning and from there, the inevitable charge toward the end of all things and all time. They cannot imagine and choose not to believe that life could have come forward out of chaos. They demand the inference of a creator, a designer, a being that produced all beings.
There is no lack of evidence. That could be true. But there is no proof. So we must explain it some other way, in practical terms, so that we can be good stewards of all that we survey here on earth. And that is where an appreciation for the aggregate must enter the picture.
Our role in the aggregate
As one of the so-called higher life forms on earth, human beings play an important role in interpreting the past and determining the future of the planet.
At the most foundational level in terms of human behavior, people of faith consider our souls to be an intact part of their being. Yet it is quite hard to argue that our bodies, the temple for the spirit, are and were not assembled through an aggregation of cellular activity. We depend on DNA and an incredibly fine-tuned yet chaotic universe to contribute the materials from which we are made. It all gets organized through chemical reactions and what we call fertile conditions for life. We evolved from those conditions. They do not randomly happen to support our needs.
We could not have evolved without oxygen. Life developed in concert with that element and all of life depends on it, with bold exception. Plants reverse the process, taking in carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen vital for all life other life forms. It was a small aggregate that began it all, yet it was an aggregation all the same. One still fills the need of another.
All aggregations are symbiotic. That is, they depend on each other for survival. The stones that form the foundation for the cement do not hold together without some substrate, Portland cement for example, to bind them together. So it is with all forms of life and all things on earth. The aggregate is the true foundation of all things, which depend on relationships however dead or alive, for survival.
Even the Bible, the Word of God, is more powerful and strong as an aggregate work of literature than it would be if all its books and words were forced to stand on their own. One cannot comprehend the meaning of Jesus Christ without the aggregate history and acts of his prophetic predecessors. The fact that Christ arrived to bring a new law is only comprehensible if you know the original laws he deigned to improve upon. His arrival was the aggregate of all the prophets and leaders who came before, from Adam and Eve to Abraham to David. All of history is an aggregation of events. We can yank out its parts but to properly understand them we must put them back in place to see how they fit, and where.
The meaning of aggregation
What does it all mean, this aggregation? It means that forcing our imprint upon the cement can only fix a moment in time. It does not define the cement down the street, or anywhere around the world. It can help us understand the influence of man upon a moment, but it does not deliver any ultimatums. Even the 10 Commandments for all their reach and grasp in human values are not absolute. We still need to consider their meaning, measure their purpose and implement them in our lives.
We know the difference between Thou Shalt Not Kill yet when wars come around, we find justice in the killing.
We struggle knowing that the bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, yet when used for charity or grace, money can be the greatest expression of love that there is.
And when we hear people say that the world was created in seven days, it is tempting to think that those seven days were similar to the length of the days we now know. Yet the bible also uses the terms “day” and “ages” to loosely describe the aggregate sense that a day as we conceive it can also be an expression of awareness, not just a literal 24. When we describe ourselves as having embarked on a “new day” we certainly do not hope for a mere 24 hours of revelation or enlightenment. We hope our new day lasts forever. And ever. And ever.
All of time and being and evolution are an aggregate expression of all that went before. And all that will be. What pain the Lord himself must feel when we do not attempt to understand these things as the whole of creation and limit ourselves to a surface take on what lies before us.
The aggregate shared
We have evolved as individuals, yet composed of many aggregate organs and body parts whose development was forged in earlier iterations, our ancestors. We share our DNA with all living things on earth. Some more than others, but that is to be expected. They are simply different aggregates, evolved to perform different functions in the great aggregation that is nature. Many have also been lost to time. 99% of all forms of living things that once existed are now extinct. We still see that happening today. We see evidence of the past in the aggregate fossils found on the surface and deep within the layers of the earth. Sedimentary rock forms so much of the earth’s crust, formed by ancient seas and the massive depositions of life that turned into little more than mere patterns in the rock. But what a story they tell.
To put a fine and human line on all this aggregation, and its role for people of faith, there is even a direct relationship between the words aggregation and congregation. The body of Christ, as expressed through the church, is most certainly an aggregate. We are all fused together as part of that body. It holds together so long as the cement of our being, that is love, is kept intact.
Minus that binding element, the aggregate dissolves. Fraught by infighting, jealousy and fractional power-mongering, even the aggregate body of Christ will dissolve in time.
Whether you are on the side of the aggregate or trying to force some wedge into the body of Christ with literal force and fearful desires for wealth or power is something everyone has to determine for themselves. The evidence of these divides is all around us. Whose side are you on, upholding the aggregate or splitting the perceived rock of your salvation for your own benefit?